On June 30, 2013, Abolitionists arrived at LifeChurch.tv’s campus off of NW Expressway. We were there to plead with their leadership and congregation to love their preborn neighbor. Read this post to understand “Why we chose to Exhort LifeChurch.TV.”
After several attempts to contact LifeChurch.tv representatives regarding not only their position on abortion, but what they do for the least of these, we determined to take this conversation to their front porch. Efforts to contact them were made by (now former) members of LifeChurch.tv and representatives of the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma. Multiple emails were exchanged and multiple phone calls were made. Only after discovering that this was an issue that the staff and leadership have avoided, as though avoiding the topic were official policy, did we decide to reach out to their congregation the only way we could – from a public easement in front of their church building. For a thorough breakdown of the actual Church Repent Project, please check the other pages on this site.
During the exhortation, a member of the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma spoke with one of the directors of LifeChurch.tv, Bobby Gruenwold. Here is a video recording of that conversation:
After the exhortation, a leader of Abolish Human Abortion emailed Bobby to clarify a point. This is the correspondence that ensued:
Jeremiah Smedra’s Initial Email
I am Jeremiah Smedra. We spoke outside Lifechurch NW yesterday during our exhortation. I think you may have been confused regarding the signs that were used at your church. The sign that says “This Church Supports Child Sacrifice” was only at Grace UMC. We distinguish between pro-choice “churches” that support abortion and pro-life churches. The messages are different. This is more completely explained at the attached link. I did appreciate our conversation. May the Lord give you and the leadership team wisdom as you consider how to respond.
Jeremiah, I thought I saw that specific sign as I came in through the entrance in the front, but perhaps I saw it up the road. After looking at your site I really believe this is a massive case of your group severely misunderstanding our views and actions on this issue and some unfortunate misunderstanding and communication from a brand new team member on our staff. I had tried to communicate with your group and take your concern seriously, but then today we recieved a hand written postcard from a member of your group. In the postcard it said “Your church will be vomited out of God’s mouth on Judgement Day”. Perhaps this was sent to the wrong place? I believe that somewhere down deep inside of you and your group believe you are doing the right thing., but I can’t reconcile that with the actions of your group. If your goal was to help our church be aware that there was an abortion clinic in our backyard… You have succeeded. If your goal was to correct the church in love or sincerely call the church to repentance… You’ve failed. We will continue to take a strong and unashamed position that abortion is a horrible and immoral thing that should never happen and will reinforce that with new team members and our church at large. Additionally, we will continue to preach the Gospel and show love to our neighbors who are lost and hurting including those who may be considering the unthinkable act of abortion. But I’m honestly not interested in having further dialog with your group as I don’t think it would be productive. I think your group’s actions toward our church family and people who weren’t believers who were coming to church for the first time this past weekend sadden the heart of God. I also struggle to understand what fruit can come from your effort when your group self-righteously casts judgement in such a hateful way on our staff and church…the Bride of Christ.
I am sure you could argue that one comment in a postcard or one protester yelling at a young family coming to church for the first time doesn’t represent your group as a whole or what you really believe… Perhaps you could have applied the same grace and understanding to our staff and church before condemning us all to Hell.
I know that you believe you are doing the right thing…and I will pray for you personally. Please prayerfully consider changing your approach before you bring more hate and harm to another church that is trying desperately to reach their community with the life changing truth of the Gospel.
If you choose to post this response to your website please be sure to do so in it’s entirety.
A response/analysis of Bobby’s email to AHA
The main thing to take away from this interaction with Bobby is that he firmly believes LifeChurch.tv to have a “strong and unashamed position that abortion is a horrible and immoral thing.” This is by far the most important point because it is his main justification for dismissing our call to repentance. The problem with this justification is that it does not bear itself out in reality.
Firstly, a member in good standing who had led other lifegroups and mission trips, in good standing for 12 years, sought to start a life group focused on the issue of abortion and was denied.
He was not merely denied by a new staff member. He was denied by the campus pastor who has been with LifeChurch.tv for a very long time. You may say, “Thats a weird topic for a lifegroup. I understand why they turned him down.” The problem with this is that there are lifegroups that have as their themes everything from watching sports, to fellowshiping around bacon (yes, a bacon lifegroup), and addressing sex trafficking.
Secondly, we spoke with at least three secretaries from LifeChurch.tv who did not know if the church had a position on abortion
Thirdly, we spoke with a staff person over lifegroups at the NW Expressway campus who told us that abortion is “not something they talk about from the stage”.
The bottom line is that though LifeChurch.tv unashamedly professes to be against abortion, apparently many of their staff didn’t get the memo. This is more than just miscommunication. LifeChurch.tv’s position is avoiding the discussion of abortion at all costs and discouraging members from exposing its evil or loving their pre-born neighbors in any approved ministry capacity.
If Bobby were to take our call seriously and recognize that this level of “miscommunication” between leaders and staff is evidence of actual sin, the sin of omission, instead of a mere mistake or misunderstanding, he would not ignore the pre-born in his summary of LifeChurch.tv’s obligations. He basically says that they will continue to preach the Gospel and show love to their neighbors, including abortion-minded women. Notice he did not claim that they will love their pre-born neighbor. He actually just reasserts their position: The very thing we were not there to talk about, as numerous of our signs made clear.
We were more there to call LifeChurch.tv to repent of not doing anything and discouraging members from participating in this work, than calling them to repent regarding their position on abortion.
When Bobby suggested he could no longer take us seriously, he actually revealed his heart on this matter. It’s actually demonstrable from the interaction we had with him on Sunday and in this email that Bobby never intended to dialogue, nor did he ever try to take us seriously. If Bobby tried to take us seriously and actually read the website, he would know that he is simply talking past us. If Bobby had ever been interested in dialogue, he would have read the website. The reason we know he didn’t read the website is that even after Sunday, he persists in making this about LifeChurch.tv’s position rather than their actions.
If you watch the video of the interaction with him on Sunday and then read his email, you will notice that he didn’t really say anything new. This is a clear indication that he made up his mind before he spoke to us on Sunday and hasn’t changed it since then. You may say, “Perhaps he made the right judgement and is sticking to it.” What you fail to grasp when you make this objection is that this man claims to love his neighbor, even us. If he actually thought we were brothers and he actually loved us (like he claimed on Sunday), he would make some effort to understand why were there. If he loved us he would, at the very least, try to dialogue, the very thing he refuses to do.
Bobby claims that the point at which he stopped taking us seriously was when he received a postcard from “a member of [our] group.” The previous paragraph demonstrates that he never tried to take our concerns seriously, but nevertheless we must deal with this “conversation killing” postcard. It is disappointing that Bobby chose to go by this rogue postcard that was not sent to him by Abolish Human Abortion or the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma, instead of engaging with the website that we spent months developing for the purpose of explaining our motives and methods.
We do not know who sent the postcard. We are also skeptical whether it was someone even affiliated with Abolish Human Abortion. Some crazy folks might even say they doubt the existence of the postcard, but that is beside the point. Bobby’s message seems to indicate that one part (not the whole) of the postcard read “Your church will be vomited out of God’s mouth on Judgement Day.” At first glance, we may revolt and think, “Wow, that was really unhelpful.” If we think about where the quotation comes from, we should begin to realize that this is very close to the words of Jesus to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3. What could be more appropriate for this church that is rich with many goods and yet refuses to love their pre-born neighbor, the least of these? It should be noted that the quotation is not an exact rendering of the passage in Revelation 3. That particular passage that the sender had in mind actually refers to Christ judging (removing their lampstand) churches in the present, rather than at Judgement Day. Perhaps the postcard should have said, “All the things you do not do for your pre-born neighbor, you do not do for me.”
The point we are trying to make is that Bobby somehow views this statement as a last straw when he really should view it as someone loving him and his church enough to call them to repentance. He shouldn’t merely think about the motive of this claim either; he should rather think deeply about the substance of this call. Bobby’s response to the message given him can be boiled down to this: “Telling someone to repent is a conversation killer and if someone told me I was lukewarm I would stop talking to them.” We wonder if Bobby would react the same way to Jesus.
We are delighted that we helped LifeChurch.tv be aware that there is an abortion clinic in their backyard. We are disturbed that they had no idea it was there. This is also proof of their apathy in that if they bothered to obey the commandment to love their neighbor they would eventually discover that their preborn neighbors are being torn apart down the street every day for $500. You might think, “Sheesh guys, they just didn’t know.” What if we told you that there was a house in OKC that rented out children to be molested for $1000 per day and that that house was advertised in the yellow pages and that the practice of renting children out to be molested was protected by law? Then imagine going to a church in OKC and telling them about this and they basically say they didn’t know it was there. You would berate them. Any response from them that tried to minimize their guilt you would view as callous and an attempt to shirk responsibility. Why is legalized abortion any different? Why are they off the hook for their ignorance? Because of the widespread apathy?
We are not sure what it means to say that we “failed to call the Church to repentance.” If anyone has ever called a brother to repentance and saw that brother not take it very well, they recognize much of the things that Bobby is saying. “You didn’t do it in love,” is one of the most popular complaints of someone who is being called to repent who is refusing to do so. Bobby believes that the postcard he received was unloving. He believes that our approach was unloving. Instead of defending the approach let me ask the reader to just watch the videos of our interactions with two LifeChurch.tv leaders. If we were not successful in calling the church to repentance, why is Bobby responding to us like we called him to repentance?
Interactions with LifeChurch and its members have indicated that this church is not of one mind on this very important topic. We had a number of people leave LifeChurch.tv on Sunday and tell us that they were disappointed in how their leadership responded to our call. All this does is confirm our hypothesis that there are many true Christians attending LifeChurch that will repent when warned.
Bobby then went on to use several words to describe our approach: self-righteous, hateful, judgmental, and not loving. Bobby used these words for a couple of reasons.
1) Ignorance. He associates holding signs and direct confrontation with the mentioned negative attitudes. The reality is that holding signs and being direct are not directly correlative to being judgmental. They indicate urgency and seriousness, but they do not automatically indicate hate or self-righteousness.
2) Public effect. By this we mean that the general public associates certain attitudes with holding signs and public confrontation, so if someone who communicated with us personally claims that we were judgemental and hateful, then in the public mind it must be true.
This is where we will ask you again to watch some of the videos of our interactions at LifeChurch.tv last Sunday, including our conversations with Bobby and the campus pastor. You will not see hate or self-righteousness; you will see heartfelt pleading. You will see a group of individuals doing something they feel compelled by God to do that is completely contrary to their flesh.
One final note on repentance: Repentance for Bobby and LifeChurch.tv looks very simple.
Bobby, the Leadership at LifeChurch.tv, and the entire congregation must admit their guilt in this matter. They must admit that they have been apathetic. They must admit that they haven’t been clear or bold about their position, to the point that there seems to be no meaningful consensus among staff, at least at the NW Expressway campus, about their position on abortion. The most important aspect of repentance for LifeChurch is acknowledging that they have not done a thing for their pre-born neighbors and turning from that sin to love their neighbors in deed and in truth.
If you watch the conversation that Bobby had with Josh, one of the things that you can hear Bobby say is, “What should we do? Talk about it every weekend?” This is telling, and it is a sign that major things will have to change with LifeChurch.tv’s view of the church if it is going to repent and do the works that the Church should do, i.e. love their neighbor. Bobby’s suggestion that the only thing they can change is how frequently they talk about abortion gives away his ministry model in dealing with issues in the culture. He essentially views the Church as an institution that talks and doesn’t necessarily do anything.
For LifeChurch.tv to repent, this will have to change. We are not asking them to do something specific. We are not asking them to give us money. We are asking them to obey Christ, and that does not have to involve us. We are asking LifeChurch.tv to examine herself and truly ask if she is using her talents to love her pre-born neighbors. We are asking LifeChurch.tv to truly fulfill the Great Commission by not making disciples merely of herself but by making disciples of Christ who are encouraged to obey the greatest commandments.